Tuesday :: Jun 10, 2003

Pay Attention to Early Media Coverage of Democratic Candidates


by Steve

Even though it is way too early to draw conclusions about Campaign 2004 from reading polls, unless definite trends emerge, one thing that can be indicative of future developments is the media’s treatment of the candidates at this stage. The media decided relatively early to go negative on Al Gore and buy in to the crap that the right wing Wurlitzer was feeding them, yet many Democratic operatives and political junkies should have noticed the regrettable slant in coverage and double-standard the media applied to Bush early in the game so that something could have been done about it. By the time it became clear to many that Gore was being depicted as cold and untruthful and Bush was being hailed as a simple man of integrity comfortable in his own skin, it was too late for Democratic partisans to demand the media play fair and stop being bamboozled. We have suffered for it since, although the Frank Brunis and Bill Sammonses got their book deals and still have jobs.

I am curiously looking at media coverage of the candidates on a weekly basis, and today’s ABC News The Note gives a very positive spin for Howard Dean, and a somewhat negative one for Joe Lieberman. To put it simply, the folks at the Note believe that Dean will be around for awhile and is a first-tier candidate, despite current poll numbers because he runs a tech-savvy, volunteer-laden campaign that doesn’t require the usual high-cost infrastructure.

Now, Howard Dean — he is playing by his own set of expectations.

Benefiting from lower standards and expectations than most of the others (still, for instance, being allowed to misspeak with impunity by the national and, ahem, Vermont press), Dean is also benefiting from a political community that wrongly casts him as having succeeded largely because of his anti-war stance. Last night, the Good Doctor drew what his campaign says (and says and says and says) was a crowd of over 3,000 people in the little cow town of Austin, Texas.

We've said it before, and we'll say it again: Howard Dean might win both Iowa and New Hampshire; Howard Dean is the only major candidate in the race who talks like both a governor AND a real person from outside Washington; Howard Dean is really using the Internet to fundraise and organize (It ain't just hype … .); Howard Dean connects regularly with Democratic audiences in a way that the others can do only sporadically; Howard Dean has a long record of policy thoughtfulness and a capacity to connect it to the real lives of real people that governors do best (and is, dare we say it, Clintonesque) ; and he evinces real anger at George Bush's polices.

The dirty little (not-so) secret of political strategists of both parties is how hard it is to get people interested in, and emotional about, politics. Howard Dean is doing that, and he is bringing new (and young) people into the process. In a crowded field, that is a good thing.

And Howard Dean doesn't have to raise $6 million this quarter to be considered to have Absolut Viability.

Dean now has a pretty big staff on the ground in key states (although our bet is that they are being paid less than the folks working for the other Big Six candidates … .), but Howard Dean is not a money candidate.

The Note then goes on to mention a Will Saletan piece in Slate that is also complimentary of Dean.

And according to the Boston Herald, Dean has pushed himself into the first tier of candidates expected to do well in Iowa, along with Gephardt and Kerry.

But Lieberman is facing fresh coverage in the media that indicates the Jewish community may not be ready for one of their own at the top of the ticket. In a USA Today piece late yesterday, they state

(S)ome Jewish Democrats are ambivalent about a man who is more religious and more conservative than most of them. As proud as most Jews are of Lieberman, he's no longer a novelty and he's not bursting onto the scene on a national ticket. He's scrapping with eight other Democrats, some of whom have more appeal to Jewish liberals than the hawkish, values-oriented Lieberman does.

And he's running in a world beset by terrorism, Middle East violence, anti-Semitism and anti-American sentiment. The Israeli-Palestinian peace process sits at a delicate early stage. All that leads some Jews to wonder if it's the right time for a Jewish president.

Media coverage is a good early indicator of where things may head in the campaign. And it looks like Dean is trending upward with the media, and Lieberman will need Garry South’s talents to look viable in the long term.

Steve :: 7:26 AM :: Comments (13) :: Digg It!